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Canadian Writer, Producer Calls Israel: a Totalitarian Regime

CBC's Stroumboulopoulos Allows Statement to go Unchallenged

By: Mike Fegelman

Published: May 18th, 2012 in Culture » Society » News

Canadian Writer, Producer Calls Israel: a Totalitarian Regime

A totalitarian government harnesses political power by subordinating the individual to the state and by repressing its dissidents. Countries like Iran, Cuba, Syria, China, and North Korea come to mind. Some are theocracies, others communist, but most are ruthlessly despotic. Characteristically, totalitarian regimes strictly control the political, economic, and social realms by using state-controlled media, restrictions on free speech and assembly, arbitrary detentions, and the use of terror to repress and coerce its populace.

In employing this widely accepted definition, it would be intellectually dishonest to describe Israel as being “totalitarian” and yet, that is exactly what Canadian writer and producer Ken Finkleman believes and espouses. Best known for the CBC Television series “The Newsroom”, Finkelman was interviewed on the CBC program George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight on May 15 alleging that Israel is a "complete totalitarian regime (that) controls all of the Arab population of the West Bank absolutely without rights."

Finkelman made this statement afterexpressing his dismay that the CBC’s host, Strombo, as he’s affectionately known, was not wearing a “Palestine” bracelet to mourn the “Nakba”, translated from Arabic as “catastrophe” which marks the creation of the state of Israel after over 2,000 years in exile.

While Strombo noted that Finkelman was an “outsider” in the Jewish community, he did not challenge his outrageous contention that Israel is a “totalitarian regime”. Failing to do so, CBC’s viewing audience could only conclude that Finkelman’s claim was reasonable and had merit.

Mark Twain said it best: "A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."

Finkelman’s claim does not stand up to scrutiny and here are just ten reasons why:

1. Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East

2. Israel’s protection of its citizens civil liberties have earned it international recognition from Freedom House, an NGO that ranks freedom and democracy in the 195 countries in the world. Israel is the only country in the Mideast to be designated as truly “free”

3. Israel’s Knesset (or parliament) features vigorous debate from political parties of the left, centre, and right. Israel even has Arab politicians who seek to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state

4. Israel has a vibrant free press which features dozens of independent media outlets and hundreds of journalists, both local and international, who are highly critical of domestic dealings and international matters

5. Israel is not a monolith. Israelis regularly engage in the marketplace of ideas and freely challenge government policies

6. Israel embraces the right of freedom to assembly. In 2011 for example, over 150,000 Israelis took to the streets to protest escalating housing prices, low salaries, and poor standards of living

7. Israel’s minorities, including its Arab citizens who comprise over 20 percent of Israel’s population, have full and equal rights

8. Israel has an independent judiciary. Israeli law prohibits arbitrary arrest of citizens. All defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty

9. Israel has a robust free market economy with the second largest number of companies on the NASDAQ outside of the U.S.

10. Israel has no state religion and is welcoming of people from all faiths whether Jewish, Muslim, Christian, etc.

Strombo also let another matter go out of sight and out of mind from the CBC’s audience. Finkelman erroneously claimed that Israel “controls all of the Arab population of the West Bank”, yet contrary to this statement, as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian agreements following the Oslo Accords of 1993 and subsequent unilateral Israeli withdrawals, the Palestinian Authority now governs the civil affairs of the 98% of Palestinian Arabs who live in the West Bank. In Area C of the West Bank, a sparsely populated land under Israeli control, just 4% of Palestinians call this area home. As to Israel’s settlements, they make up less than 3 percent of the West Bank’s overall territory.

This wasn’t an isolated incident for this CBC host. Stroumboulopoulos has been criticized in the past for treating anti-Israel gadfly George Galloway with “fawning respect” and for “glamoriz(ing) and grovel(ing)” at Galloway’s feet in an interview on the topic of his funding of the Hamas terrorist organization. Strombo’s interview gave Galloway a platform to demonize Israel and an opportunity for the disgraced British politician to perpetuate lies claiming that he never gave Hamas money, despite his widely available televised address in Gaza where he praised the government of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and then handed over cash to Hamas representatives brazenly claiming "this is not charity, this is politics". Strombo concluded his interview with Galloway by agreeing that its “crazy” to consider Galloway as a terrorist supporter. Talk about impartial reporting by the CBC!

While we respect Finkelman’s right to free speech and would, if given the opportunity, defend his right to offend our sensibilities, his claims deserved to be rebutted by the CBC’s host who was duty bound by the CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices to ensure that Finkelman’s opinion was “grounded in facts bearing on a matter of public interest.”

Sadly, CBC bias against Israel continues unabated.

How You Can Make A Difference:

Send your consider comments to the CBC program George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight and refer to this CBC host's failure to challenge Ken Finkelman's assertion that Israel is a "totalitarian regime" in its May 15 program. Please send letters to strombo@cbc.ca

Mike Fegelman is Executive Director of HonestReporting Canada

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